When turning a computer on and off, various peripherals (such as printers, screen, scanner, etc.) often have to be turned on and off as well. By using the 5-V supply voltage from the USB interface on the PC, all these peripherals can easily be switched on and off at the same time as the PC. This principle can also be used with other appliances that have a USB interface (such as modern TVs and radios). This so-called ‘USB-standby-killer’ can be realised with just 5 components. The USB output voltage provides for the activation of the triac opto-driver (MOC3043) which has zero-crossing detection.
This, in turn, drives the TRIAC, type BT126 The circuit shown is used by the author for switching loads with a total power of about 150 W and is protected with a 1-A fuse. The circuit can easily handle much larger loads however. In that case and/or when using a very inductive load a so-called snubber network is required across the triac. The value of the fuse will also need to be changed as appropriate. The circuit can easily be built into a mains multi-way powerboard. Make sure you have good isolation between the USB and mains sections (refer to the Electrical Safety page published regularly in this magazine).